Helping Birds Survive the Summer

By Fuoco, Linda Wilson | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), July 19, 2014 | Go to article overview

Helping Birds Survive the Summer


Fuoco, Linda Wilson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


In the summertime, the livin' isn't always easy for billions of wild birds in North America, according to the American Bird Conservancy. July, August and September are critical months as birds raise their young and prepare for migration. Some studies suggest that as many as half of all migrating birds do not make it back home.

"Our birds need all the help they can get," said conservancy president George Fenwick.

The Washington, D.C.-based organization that works to achieve "conservation results" for birds and their habitat emailed a news release with things we can all do to help birds. Threats include suburban sprawl, the drainage of waterways, pesticides, air and water contamination, glass windows, and cats.

Most of the conservancy's tips are quite simple, starting with birdbaths. Birds, like other animals, can dehydrate if they don't have access to water. Birdbaths and other "water features" should be cleaned regularly. I'd suggest wearing disposable gloves when scrubbing gunk out of the bottom. The Allegheny County Health Department has advised replacing water at least once or twice a week so that insect eggs deposited in the birdbath don't have time to hatch into mosquitoes.

Hummingbirds need nectar as they prepare to fly south in the fall, and feeders filled with sugar water can help them. Regularly clean hummingbird feeders and replace the sugar water before it ferments - usually within three to seven days depending on the heat and sun.

Keep dogs and cats away from young birds. The American Bird Conservancy is not popular with cat lovers because the organization has repeatedly complained that "free-roaming cats kill billions of birds every year," especially young fledglings that spend time on the ground. This release notes that "loose dogs also have an impact on nesting birds. ... Roaming dogs are suspected of recently wiping out a colony of threatened Least terns in Florida."

People who love and defend cats have argued that "glass strikes" kill more birds than cats do. I don't know who could possibly keep an accurate count on this, but the conservancy says millions of birds die each year when they fly into glass windows. There are many suggested solutions on its www.abcbirds.org website, including putting tape or decals on windows. It also suggests turning outdoor lights off at night because bright artificial lights can disorient migrating birds and make them more likely to fly into windows. Blue and green LED lights "are less distracting to night-migrating birds."

"Be a good landlord," according to the press release. "If you're lucky enough to have swallows or phoebes nesting on your porch or carport, keep the nest intact." The birds "will help you out by eating hundreds of insects each day. …

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